Florida fans who watched the impact that Duke freshman shooting guard Grayson Allen made off the bench against Wisconsin were left wondering the same thing.
How could the Gators have let Allen get out of state? Could Florida have done more to land the McDonald’s All-American guard from Providence School in Jacksonville? Could Florida coach Billy Donovan have done more to close the deal?
The answer, according to Providence basketball coach Jim Martin, is that Duke was simply Allen’s dream school.
“Florida actually out-recruited Duke,” Martin said. “They were here all the time. Grayson had a great relationship with Coach Donovan, Coach (Florida assistant John) Pelphrey. It was just a case that Duke was his dream school. Had he wavered at all with that, he would have ended up at Florida.”
Allen averaged 4 points, .9 rebounds and .4 assists as a reserve guard for Duke, but he saved his best for last in his freshman season, scoring 16 points and coming up with a key steal during Duke’s 68-63 comeback win over Wisconsin in Monday’s NCAA title game. With Duke down 9 points in the second half, Allen scored all 8 points during an 8-2 Duke run that cut Wisconsin’s lead to 50-47.
“He’s a great kid,” Martin said. “He sent me a text today that had a picture of him in fifth grade, saying, this is where it all began. And he’s already talking about coming back to Jacksonville over the summer and what he needs to do to get better. I think he realizes he’s going to have to take on a bigger role next season, given how their team could look next season.”
Martin said that Florida began recruiting Allen after his sophomore season in high school. In the spring and summer of 2012, when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was coaching the US Olympic Team, Donovan and his staff were around often during recruiting and evaluation periods, trying to convince Allen to stay in state.
“If you think about it, in 2012, Florida was in a better position program-wise than Duke,” Martin said. “They were coming off an Elite Eight. Coach Donovan was in his ear. (Former Providence and UF center) Patric Young was in his ear. Florida was relentless.”
But in the spring of 2013, Allen committed to Duke and signed his letter of intent the following November. Florida instead opted to sign another Jacksonville-area standout, Arlington Country Day shooting guard Brandone Francis. Unfortunately, Francis was unable to play in 2014-15 due to academic reasons, but will be eligible to play as a sophomore in the 2015-16 season.
Martin coached against Arlington Country Day and Francis and thinks the 6-foot-5 guard will help the Gators next season.
“He’s a good shooter,” Martin said. “He’s a physical guard. I think he will help them a lot next season.”